My husband would like to believe we are minimalists. I don’t know for certain this is true, but I know we come close. What I do know is my husband and I are in very good company here on Whidbey Island.

Last night I attended a presentation on the Zero Waste Movement at the library. I was thrilled to see 20 other like-minded people come out on a cold winter’s night to learn more about reducing our waste. Evening lectures, even free ones, are a hard sell for many people, me included. More often than not, I change into my pajamas even before dinner. I can’t tell you how many times Chris and I would sit down to dinner and settle into our evening only to realize we were missing a movie, or play, or some evening event happening.

So, first off, kudos to me for making it to the lecture.

Second, kudos to the other 20 people for caring enough about the planet to make it out, too.

My goals for attending the presentation were to A) see if I could learn anything new (I did), B) find others interested in reducing their waste (I did), and C) see if the library would like to continue on this topic by having me come back to present on Reuse, Recycle, Reduce Your Waist (they were).

I loved the handout given to me. Yes, it was paper, but it was a brilliant use of paper. I will keep this with me until the end of time. To help me RE-member my RE’s.

  • First and foremost- Re-spect and Re-vere: Love the earth, and all its inhabitants. Also love yourself, and your family. Show you care by taking steps to protect and conserve as much as we can.
  • Re-new and Re-fresh: fix things if you can instead of tossing them as soon as they become worn, or even broken. I’m only half-way good at this. I have a stack of items I want to fix because I don’t want to toss them. But I never get around to actually doing anything about it.
  • Re-imagine/Re-fashion/Re-purpose: This is my life with Reuse, Recycle, Reduce Your WaistI re-imagine household items and trash and re-purpose them as workout equipment. Another way I have re-purposed items is to make cat toys out of trash. Cats prefer free stuff over expensive items anyways. That’s why they always play with boxes and ignore the cat castle you put together. The possibilities are endless, and your only limit is your imagination.
  • Re-duce: Not all waste is plastic or trash. Often times, we waste gas, resources, and even time. Reduce your impact by carpooling, walking or biking, or taking the bus to your destination. Reduce your water intake by turning off the faucet while you brush your teeth. Time your showers to stay within 5 minutes, saving water and time, both which are precious.
  • Re-search: The internet is not always your friend, but in this instance, it can be. Learn, read, and research. This goes beyond just our trash, this has everything to do with our fitness, our eating habits, and our leisure activities. RESEARCH it. Curious what the hubbub about palm oil is? Look it up. Which diet is best for weight loss? GOOGLE IT!
  • Re-use: Oh, this is one which sets me on edge. It’s a pet peeve of mine. I ask the server for no utensils, they give me a pack anyways. Yeah, it’s annoying, but instead of just using it and tossing, I reuse those plastic utensils at least a few more times. Containers are the same way. Re-use glass jars for leftovers, or make them part of your bulk food containers collection.
  • Re-home and Re-gift: I used to think it was a cheapskate’s method by re-gifting, even if I was guilty of doing it. But now, I don’t care if others think it’s cheap. It’s smart, and it helps save the planet! If you don’t have a purpose for an item anymore, don’t toss it, give it to someone who CAN use it. Don’t know anyone who needs it? Give it to a thrift store, and they will find someone who needs it. I’m super guilty of re-gifting books. Often I only need to read the book once, but I don’t want to let it just sit on my shelf, unread. I want to share the book with my friends, someone who will appreciate it. So, pay heed- if you are receiving a book from me, it means I thought of you while I read it and felt you should have it in your life too. And it would honor me greatly if you would pass that book on further.
  • Re-fuse: if you only have one or two items, go without a bag. Although, I have a hilarious story of me refusing a plastic bag once at a clothing store. I bought a pair of jeans, a few years ago, and the clerk started to put them in a plastic bag. I told her “No, thanks, I don’t need a bag for only one pair of pants.” She replied that I DID need the bag, and if I didn’t want it, I could throw it away once I got out of the store. “That defeats the purpose of not getting a bag.” I took the opportunity to educate the woman, but it went a little over her head. The story ends on a high note though. Three years later, I revisited the store and only got one item. I asked if I could simply put the gift in my own bag, and the clerk replied “yes, no problem.” I was just a little ahead of the curve. This lesson goes along with the next one, which is…
  • Re-mind: Once often isn’t enough to teach behavioral change. Several years ago, my good friend and I patronized a local sushi restaurant. We always refused the wooden chopsticks when offered, and I would leave a “Chopsticks for Salamanders” card along with the tip. Every time. After almost a year went by, we were eating there and the server approached to ask if we wanted chopsticks. Before we said no, she produced two pair of REUSABLE CHOPSTICKS! “When did you get those?” I asked. The server replied “Not too long ago. We kept receiving these neat cards about switching to reusable chopsticks, and our manager decided to make the change.”
    See? It works. You just have to remind people sometimes.
  • Re-think: do you really need those industrial cleaners packaged and wrapped in plastic? Do you need to put those bananas in a plastic bag? Are you working on a project for work which you could complete from home? Rethink how you normally do things, and see if you can find ways to reduce your impact.
  • Re-inforce: Okay, so the pamphlet used the word reward, but this is what they actually meant. Sincerely thank your butcher or deli server for using your own containers. Tell them you appreciate their accommodating your request to reduce plastic. And show your appreciation by frequenting their establishment. I do most of my shopping at The Goose, the local grocer on the island. Not only do they have a huge bulk section, but they encourage you to bring your own containers and allow you to tare them at the front of the store. But I will travel a little out of my way to buy any meat products at Haggens in Oak Harbor. Why? Because they were the first and only meat department who not only honored my request to use my own containers, but they THANKED ME for doing so. It reinforced me reinforcing them. I try not to make a separate trip all the way to Oak Harbor just to go to Haggens, but when I am up there, I definitely visit to get my groceries.
  • Re-silience: This is important, probably one of the most important components of the Zero Waste Movement. Reducing your impact on the planet is HARD WORK. Some days are going to be more challenging than others. Keep repeating to yourself “It’s a small action which makes a big difference. I am doing all that I can. I will keep trying. This effort is worthwhile.”
    I am reminded of the story of the Hummingbird. A great forest fire started and all the animals fled the woods. They watched as their home burned, until they noticed a little hummingbird flitting back and forth between the forest and a small lake. Back and forth. “What are you doing?” asked the other animals. “You are too small, and the fire is too big.” The hummingbird didn’t stop as she replied “I am doing all that I can.”
    (Okay, this real story gives me goosebumps and teary eyes EVERY SINGLE TIME I hear it…if I can’t convey the story well, try this:
  • Re-frain: This is another hard one for me, but it is good practice. Make a bright line in your commitment to reduce your impact. Promise yourself to not buy foods with plastic packaging. Tell yourself you do not need it if it comes wrapped in plastic. Trust me, I know, it’s HARD!!! But refraining from buying it in the first place can save the planet, and it might just save you unnecessary junk in the process.
  • Re-lax and Re-vive: Did I mention this is HARD? As you go through the process, reward yourself for your efforts. Give yourself some grace. Be kind to yourself. You can’t do EVERYTHING.  Give yourself credit where credit is due, and remember what you are doing is making a difference.

Neat stuff, huh? It really revved me up to continue on with ZooFit, and other practices where I connect fitness to conservation, and wellness to conservation.

Which of the RE’s resonates with you? And do you have any RE’s to impart?